June 27, 2000
Well-known evangelist, D. L. Moody was once asked, “Sir, what must I do to be saved?” Moody replied, “I’m sorry, it’s too late.”
Startled, the man asked, “Too late to be saved?”
Moody said, “No. It’s too late to do something.”
Moody did not know this man, had no idea what his life was like or how much of it was left. However, he did know what a person has to do to be saved.
The first question: saved from what? The man obviously knew that Moody was an evangelist, a person who has something to say about God. He may have known that Moody proclaimed the Gospel or “good news.” What he seemed unsure about was the content of that good news — that God forgives sin and grants eternal life to sinners by grace through faith.
Nearly thirty years ago, sin had me in more trouble than I ever expected or wanted. My life was chaotic; everything needed a miracle. I do not recall asking to be saved, but I knew I needed something and cried out to God.
God knew exactly what I needed. He also knew that I was helpless and unable to do anything to get out of my troubles. I needed to be saved, but first I had to hear the good news. He brought it to me in various ways: I read the Bible, and all sorts of other books. I went to church. Finally, I heard it: Jesus is God; He came to earth and put on human flesh so He could die for my sins; then He rose from the dead and offers eternal life to all who believe.
I believed it and when I did, I knew God forgave me and I belonged to Him. I knew that Jesus had come to live in my heart. He gave me eternal life and saved me from sin.
I remember the first time I read about a man who came to Jesus asking the same question as the man who came to Dr. Moody. He was young, wealthy, and in a position of power. If anyone could do anything to gain the favor of God and earn their salvation, this man could.
Jesus asked him about the commandments. The man said he kept them all. Then Jesus said he lacked one thing; he needed to go and sell all he had and follow Him. The man became very sad and walked away. He wanted eternal life but was not willing to pay that price for it.
Before believing the Gospel, I might have assumed this story meant salvation can be had through generous and sacrificial giving. However, I now see that interpretation contradicts other plainer passages. Jesus must have meant something beyond my initial assumption.
Jesus did tell the man to keep the Law but the New Testament clearly says that salvation does not come through keeping the law. Rather, it shows how the Law lays out God’s high standards and no one keeps it. We fall short and we need to be saved from our failure and sin.
This man claimed that he kept all the commandments but Jesus knew otherwise. By asking him to give up all his possessions, He showed the man that he did not keep the first one: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Instead, this man put money ahead of God. No one can earn salvation by giving their possessions away. The point Jesus makes is that rich folks like their money and even if something could be done to be saved, that man was not willing to do it.
Maybe some people are willing. They have a long list of things they “do for God” yet they miss the most important thing — what God has done for them. As the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Our puny efforts to do something for God go beyond being too little and too late; they insult the Giver. His salvation is a gift that we cannot earn, deserve, buy, find by a quest, or obtain by doing anything. As Moody implied, it is already there — waiting for us to receive it.